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Practical Intro to Mountaineering


Title: The Mountaineering Handbook

Author: Sanjai Banerji

Publisher: Blue Rose Publishers

Price: Rs 400/-

Pages: 278


Sanjai Banerji deals with sensitivity and understanding in his book, ‘The Mountaineering Handbook (Essential Knowledge, Skills and Techniques)’. The author’s approach has been more practical than theoretical. He has laid emphasis on being physically fit before embarking on any form of climbing on rock, snow or ice. His detailed program to enable one to run 10 kilometers within 3 months of training, and the demonstration of illustrated exercises are commendable.

The exercises have been curated by him and adeptly demonstrated by two of his mountaineering colleagues, Abhishek Gaikwad and Lucky Menka Gunjyal, over a series of 24 photographs representing strength-training and developing a strong core for flexibility, agility and stability.

The author’s study of the limits of human endurance has helped him lay emphasis on the critical aspects of mountaineering, like high-altitude acclimatization, acute mountain sickness, cold injuries and survival techniques in the mountains, which are very detailed.

His commitment to a cleaner environment in the mountains endears him to conscientious climbers, who, like  him, are respectful of their surroundings, such as the principles of leaving no trace, the dos and don’ts of mountaineering, climate change, camp sanitation and hygiene. The chapter on climate change has been written by his son, Sujai Banerji, and daughter-in-law Anubhuti, both currently undergoing a doctoral and post-doctoral program in Finland on climate change and pollution, respectively.

There are a number of very technical aspects of climbing related to rock, snow and ice. The author has taken up the challenge to write with aplomb on techniques like belaying, rappelling, anchoring, jumaring, self-arrest on snow slopes and glissading, in a very easy-to-understand manner.

The author’s chapter on admission to mountaineering institutes makes for interesting reading with names of institutes, eligibility conditions, admission procedure, medical parameters and a 28-day itinerary of the basic course. He has also gone into details on the practical needs of the novice climber like map reading, weather, mountain hygiene, conservation of the environment, types of climbing ropes, packing of the rucksack, river crossing, mountain ranges of India and many other aspects.

There are a few features in the book, which readily connect the readers with the author, like his pictures with mountaineering colleagues and the fact that the special chapter on ‘The Everest Dream’ comprises the stories of four Everest summiteers, who are all known to the author.

There are some very interesting illustrations under the chapter on, ‘Survival on the Mountains’ on testing an edible plant, improvising snow goggles, lighting a fire with a single match-stick, carrying a fire and measuring daylight using the hand.

The chapter on, ‘Avalanches and Snow Rescue’ teaches how vulnerable we can become on this planet. Both sections on avalanches and snow rescue are very detailed. The avalanche section begins with the five types and then leads onto the factors effecting avalanches, and lastly to the triggers and safety aspects. The snow rescue section deals with the different types of equipment and several forms of rescue.

I particularly liked the chapter on ‘First Aid Kit’, which I surmised could be useful to just about anyone requiring a first aid kit, whether traveling on a road trip, holiday abroad or on a short business trip. The list is quite exhaustive comprising equipment, dressings, medication for different ailments like allergies, altitude sickness, insect repellents, fever, skin and eye and dental problems, indigestion, nausea, dehydration, pain, diarrhea, and types of antibiotics and disinfectants. There is plenty of scope to curate a customized list using this list as a benchmark.

Coming to the cover of the book, it is very attractive, colourful, and eye-catching. Moreover, there are three Everest Summiteers, who are on the Book Advisory Panel consisting of Ankur Bahl, Sangeeta Bahl and Ratnesh Pandey. Ankur Bahl, one of the author’s school batch-mates, who summited Everest in 2016 at the age of 56, has written the foreword. In Ankur’s very own words, “Whether he or she is a trekker or a novice climber, who wants to climb higher, or a veteran climber wanting to brush up on the technicalities in the wilderness, this book will cater to both categories”.

The preface has been written by Ratnesh Pandey who summited Everest in 2016 as a 31-year old, and is a good friend of the author’s.

A gold-medallist in Journalism, with 36 years corporate experience in the steel, paper, publishing and cement sectors, Sanjai Banerji recently retired from Prism Johnson Limited as General Manager–Corporate Image. He has run several half-marathons, marathons and ultra-races in different terrains – hills, deserts, high altitude, forests and stadiums. Through his running, he got a boy from Ladakh admitted with a fee waiver in The Doon School (Dehradun) of which he is himself an alumnus. He has traveled extensively and published several articles, photo-features and short stories, and is an award-winning photographer with a passion for scuba-diving, and now comes up with this book on mountaineering.

The author’s earlier book, ‘Crossing the Finish Line’, made waves in 2019 as a step-by-step running program for finishing the 10K distance in 3 months, and the half-marathon in 6 months. The magic is recreated in, ‘The Mountaineering Handbook’, albeit on a different subject. There is talk by the author of a Hindi edition as well, which will also be welcomed by the mountaineering fraternity.

This book is economically priced and a good read for anyone trying to come to grips (quite literally) with the different aspects of mountaineering. The font size in the book is large and comfortable; the good printing is sure to attract the reader to the book. Moreover, the less than three-hundred paged ready-reckoner on mountaineering, in spite of encompassing 35 chapters, easily fits into a rucksack.